Our trip originated as an idea to cycle the highest international highway in the world, the Karakoram Highway, however due to unrest in northern Pakistan we decided to seek other options (something I think we are all very glad about now). The route that we have today is a 7000km ride along some of the most challenging cycling environments on the planet, from the chaotic streets of Shanghai, along the near non-existent roads of Myanmar to the highest mountain range on Earth, the Himalayas. This trip will take us through seven countries: China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, India and finally Nepal.
Distance: 782.5 km Elevation: +7045 m/- 7029m
To start our trip in Shanghai seemed to be a fitting way to begin our journey. As the most heavily populated city in the world there is no doubt that our biking skills will be fully put to the test as we navigate the 30+million cars and 20+million people. Once we leave Shanghai however we will get our first experience of China's awesome countryside until we finally arrive in Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province.This stage of the journey also sees us pass Poyang lake, China's largest freshwater lake and no doubt an awesome camping spot.
Distance: 840.5km Elevation: +10350 m / -10198 m
Although this stage does see us pass through the city of Hengyang ( in order to replenish supplies) this section of the journey will allow us to spend some time alone in the wild expanse of China, with the highlight being the incredible Gulin national park, due to its truly unbelievable scenery and distinct lack of anything manmade, it is no surprise that this park regularly features among the China's most beautiful landscapes.
Distance: 888.9 km Elevation +15391 m / -15532 m
From Gulin national park we head south through the countryside towards the city of Nanning, otherwise known in Chinese as "Green City" due to the tropical foliage than runs throughout the city. As we leave Nanning we make our last journey through China and into Vietnam and Hanoi. Hanoi itself is often regarded as South East Asia's most atmospheric capital, with its mix of Vietnamese, Chinese and French architecture. Hanoi is a fascinating city and a great place for what i'm sure will be a well deserved rest day.
Distance: 1082 km Elevation +18888 m/ -18499 m
Laos is a country which often brings up the rather negative image of gap years and tubing, but how wrong this is. Our journey through northern Laos winds through green isolated mountains and sleepy riverside towns. Although our route will take us through very few towns, we will have the opportunity to visit Muang Xai, a town named after the legend of a monk who was supposedly found living in the woods at the site of the town, in the year 1300!
Distance: 1284.9 km Elevation +15362 m / -15595 m
Myanmar! As a group this is definitely the place which holds the most mystery for us. Having only opened its borders in 2010, Myanmar is a country almost completely untouched by Western influence. The ancient city of Mandalay with its Golden pagodas and its palace, which is the last of the old Burmese Monarchy, seem to be of a different time. There is no doubt that cycling through this incredible place is, however, going to be challenging. with poorly developed roads, and a border crossing into India which is still not allowed without a special permit there will no doubt be complications. Never the less there is no doubt in our minds that whatever issues Burma may throw at us it will certainly be worth it.
Distance 1284.9 km Elevation +15362 m / -15595 m
Leaving Burma behind we head across the border at Moreh and begin our journey towards Darjeeling and Sikkim. Darjeeling itself has had a rich history varying from Nepalese occupation to a British Hill station. On our journey through the region of Assam towards this incredible place, we begin the ascent into the Himalayas. Although this is no doubt a daunting prospect we will be kept sane by some of the the most beautiful scenery in the world, as well as the prospect of our final leg and our arrival in Kathmandu.
Distance: 531.4 km Elevation: +6368 m / -7018 m
This last leg of the challenge characterises so much of what makes this trip special. Entering into Nepal will complete our journey from the wealthy heights of Shanghai to an isolated country which, in recent times, has been struggling to survive. Riding through Nepal before carrying out the building section of our trip, will allow us to really get to know a country that will be our home for the next few months.This final leg seems a very long way away as I write this but I and the rest of the team are all buzzing for it!!!